RE’EH

“You shall not act at all as we now act here, ev­ery one as they please” Deuteron­omy 12.8

The Jewish Chronicle - - Judaism - RABBI DR CHARLES MIDDLEBURGH

AS the Is­raelites pre­pare to cross the Jor­dan into the Promised Land, Moses seizes one fi­nal op­por­tu­nity to set them on the right path, warn­ing them both how they must be­have and what they must avoid.

This Shab­bat we also re­cite the bless­ing for Rosh Chodesh El­lul, the month which pre­cedes the High Holy Days. Moses’s warn­ings res­onate across the mil­len­nia to im­pact upon us at this sea­son. Why is this the case? Be­cause the month of El­lul has tra­di­tion­ally been the month of prepa­ra­tion and con­struc­tive in­tro­spec­tion be­fore the Days of Awe. Rabbi Moses ben Abra­ham of Prem­sla said that “the wise pre­pare them­selves with re­pen­tance and prayer and char­ity dur­ing the month of El­lul. Then they will be ready to ap­pear be­fore God on Rosh Hashanah.”

One of the things many hon­est Jews say when they come to sy­n­a­gogue over the High Holy Days is that they do not get that much out of them be­yond the so­cial re­union and a few other mo­ments which may evoke mem­o­ries of ear­lier times and the peo­ple they shared them with. There may be many rea­sons for these views, and un­doubt­edly one of them is that far too many of us come to these ten days with­out fore­thought or emo­tional and spir­i­tual prepa­ra­tion.

This is where El­lul comes into its own. The month be­fore Rosh Hashanah of­fers us 29 days on which we can think steadily and ac­cu­mu­la­tively about our lives and what we like and dis­like in them and in our­selves. Iden­ti­fy­ing our strengths and weak­nesses is good for us at any time, but es­pe­cially just be­fore the Days of Awe, for we can then go into their pre­cious process of atone­ment and in­ner cleans­ing with a clear sense of where we need to change.

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